What’s better than a sandwich, a grilled sandwich! Here, panini American style, with chipotle chicken, bacon and ranch dressing. Get the recipe from What’s Cooking, Love.
August is National Panini Month. It’s also National Sandwich Month. Panini are grilled Italian sandwiches, and panini is Italian for sandwiches. So what gives?
Well, you can have celebrate National Sandwich Month with your favorite fillings on bread or toast; or you can grill them on an electric or stovetop panini press. Pretty much any conventional sandwich filling can be grilled.
The difference between panini and toasted bread sandwiches is the crispness. Before grilling, panini are brushed with oil or butter, and the heat and pressure of the panini press creates much crisper, crunchier bread.
THE HISTORY OF PANINI
According to Wikipedia, the first U.S. reference to panini dates to 1956. In Italy, the first appeared in a 16th-century Italian cookbook.
But it took a few centuries—all the way to the 1970s, to be precise—for the sandwiches became trendy in Italy.
The flash point was in Milan, in sandwich bars called paninoteche. Basic flat grills soon gave way to ribbed plates that created the desirable characteristics: melted cheese, crisp bread and grill marks. (A panini press can also used for regular grilling of meat, fish and vegetables.)
In the 1980s, the term “paninaro” arose to describe the stylish young people who patronized panini bars. They were categorized as fashion-fixated and obsessed with consumer goods as status symbols. (And they liked crispy sandwiches.)
In the 1980s, panini crossed the pond, appearing on the menus of fashionable casual restaurants in the U.S. Classic Italian ingredients were offered—prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula, for example. But soon, popular American fillings appeared—ham and swiss, for example.
By the way, panini is the plural form of the word, but it’s a compound noun. So whether you’re ordering one or ten, it’s still panini. Panino, the singular, is a roll or a small bread.
FOOD TRIVIA: Italians had no word for sandwich. During World War II, when G.I.s in Italy sought sandwiches and asked for meat and cheese on a roll, “panini” became the term.
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